Taking cue from Series 3, we continue Project DONE from an interview with Creative Director- Ewar Makeovers, Adenike Ogungbe. On a wet and traffic congested Monday in Lagos, I sat down with Adenike at Ewar's studio and discussed her business, personal challenges, hope for Nigeria and the Ewar Brand. It was a worthwhile conversation. Much thanks to seasoned and selfless photographer, Mr Elias Balogun, who volunteered to reduce my multi-tasking at interviews; it helped our discussion. I learnt a great deal.
Q.Tell me a little bit about yourself asides business:
A.Well, my name is Mrs Adenike Ogungbe. I have been married now for 5 years. Am a graduate of Computer Science from Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye Ogun state and currently Creative Director of Ewar Makeovers.
Q.So what does Ewar Makeovers actually do and how did it all begin?
Q. Where did the inspiration for the name and Ewar Makeovers come from? Did you go for any type of formal training?
A. (Sighs) Ewa in yoruba means beautiful, so I just added the “r” to it and it flowed naturally but the inspiration had two enablers- my mum and individual needs while in university. My mum is the ever-conscious type in terms of looks. She is always going for one facial or the other and is very detailed as regards looks. She is consistently particular about her make-up, tying of gele, nails and looks in general. She always comes out looking stunning at the end of her preparations and I naturally picked interest from watching her and got so particular about mine also as time went on. My university being in Ago-Iwoye was the second and real enabler. I always had to travel down to Lagos often to get a very good manicure and pedicure. Being a girl, you always wanted to look good in school. A lot of other girls in school then did the same. I realised if I could really know how to do a good manicure and pedicure for myself, I wouldn’t have to keep travelling to Lagos and I could also do for others. That’s where the whole interest catalysed. It all first started with nails. Before I knew it, I was so good at it; lots of girls were at my hostel waiting to fix their nails even before I got back from lectures. That’s how it grew till I finished school and even after, I continuously did manicures and pedicures for brides prior to their wedding.
Q. So did you go for any type of training for all what you do now?
A. I wouldn’t say so, at least not formal training. I went to Unveil studios for a while to learn more about facial makeovers as I continuously did manicures and pedicures. Simultaneously, i tutored myself through online videos, beauty consulting manuals, articles and a lot of practice on different people. My work got better with practice and consistent research. I made a lot of mistakes while I was starting up but with perseverance, tenacity and the love for what I do, I am still standing.
Q. Now, where do your clients come from? Do you have a particular target audience?
A. I actually don’t. My clientele is not sidelined to a specific category. The strength of Ewar comes from referrals. The work we do at Ewar speaks volumes and I try as much as possible to leave a very glad and happy experience with every bride or individual I get to work with. It’s a partnership. A happy bride for me is what guarantees patronage. Any relationship we built through my work is what translates into wealth for me. So my clients are not segregated in anyway.
Q. So since 2005 up until now, how has it been?
A. It’s been challenging, so also has it been fun. It’s been pleasant so also has it been dreadful but above all, it’s a loving job. I don’t think I would trade what I do now for anything else. I don’t think I would ever trade it for a 9 to 5 job. I started very rough and had several challenges but I paid my dues and persevered. Today, we always booked every other weekend. There was this particular pageant I once got the job for; I did makeovers for 28 girls free of charge! I was just starting out then and was so excited I was given the chance to do makeover for girls in a beauty pageant. I cared less about money but I wasn’t told they would be as much as 28 girls. If I was told maybe I would have charged for service, got turned down and missed that opportunity to showcase my work. I was not paid a dime not to talk of transport fare to and fro from the event but it was mind-blowing. The girls loved the makeovers I did, they all looked stunning and the organisers thanked me endlessly. I have also gotten robbed, literally robbed! My car snatched, driven around Lagos for over 30mins and left stack naked on the highway en-route a makeover job. That was another great challenge. But also, I have been given recognitions, awards and loads of oral praises for jobs have done. Up till now, I still face challenges but God, endurance and perseverance has always seen me through. All have witnessed give valuable lessons to keeping Ewar alive till date.Q. What do you consider the best kind of makeover for the Nigerian weather?
A. Almost everybody has an oily face in Nigeria because of the weather. Before 12noon everyday, due to weather conditions, the face is already oily. So I always advise people to use products that are Oil free and use Oil control moisturizers on the face.
Q. To have a very good make-up, do you really need expensive products?
A. This has always been an argument between make-up artists. For me personally, I’ll rather invest my money into so called “expensive products” because they are tried, trusted and tested. When I do jobs for my clients, because of the products I use, I go back home confident and assured their make-up can last a whole day as long as it isn’t washed off. I would not use sub-standard products. I’ll rather use products of good quality and damn the cost. If you buy cheap make-up, you’ll get cheap results.
Q. There comes a time in every person’s career or line of business, we particularly get confident about what we do seeing achievements, have you come into that zone yet?
A. Not one, two or three jobs have been reassuring to such feeling. I have done so many jobs I myself have mouth wide open and amazed seeing the level of transformation from before to after. The happiness I see on the faces of my clients after my makeovers and the pronouncements people around make continuously instils that confidence in me to a very large extent. But out of modesty and future visions for Ewar, I beat myself up, remain humble and dedicated to what I do.
Q.Why I asked this and my next question is to ascertain the level of empowerment an informal sector job can give or equip one with. Not everyone wants to be associated or introduced as an informal sector employer or employee. People would rather associate with formal sector jobs than introduce themselves as owners or employees of Informal Sector businesses. But the confidence and recognition people like you continually get can sort of be an encouraging factor to others realising Informal Sector jobs can be prestigious, add value and help transform the lives of many people once they identify with it. Many Nigerians indeed are in the informal sector and should identify and introduce themselves with it.
A. (Nods). You right. I introduce myself as a make-up artist and am proud of what I do. Initially in university, my dad was always close to crucifying me whenever he came to visit and saw me doing nails for girls. Today, seeing what Ewar has grown to become, he calls me over the phone and joyfully says “ewar mii ooooooo, ewar mii ooooooo” meaning my beautiful, my beautiful. (Laughs)
Q.That’s sweet. What is Ewar’s employee structure like presently?
A. I have an organisational structure like any formal business. Even though recruitment in staff may not be as much but I have tailored a specified blueprint in structure for Ewar. For now, I have a manager, an accountant and two assistants. I have a minimum of four employees working with me now and all of them also do Makeovers. In fact, one of the criteria to work for the Ewar brand is to first be a Make-Up Artist. I must have tutored you first over time and then give you the opportunity to assume a role in the organisational structure. I have seen their lives transformed working for me compared to when they first came to Ewar and this above all also gives me much joy.
Q. What can you say has sustained your business so far?
A. (Sighs) I would say it has been God and personal principles. Principles of endurance and consistency fused with the love for what I do. I told you about my experience with armed robbers and my car being snatched 6am in the morning on my way to a job; that alone should have deterred me from continuing but immediately I got some women give me clothes and some money, I went straight to the bride I had a job with and informed her of my encounter. I really do love what I do. This has primarily helped sustain my business. I have never had to look for a formal sector job. Initially when I started out and was having several challenges, my mum kept reiterating I dust up my Computer Science certificate and start scouting for a job. But I persevered.
I didn’t even know how to write a resume and up till now still don’t know how to write one. The gospel truth is my turn-off for formal employment came out of personal experience. During my one year reserved internship program while studying Computer Science, I searched tirelessly for an internship position. Visited loads and loads of Information Technology companies, wrote loads and loads of examinations but never got invited to assume the position. It was so unfruitful; yet, this was just an internship position. I thought to myself, what then would happen when am looking for full time paid work? I discovered the criteria for job positions were strictly based on the network one knew or could establish, not merit. I vowed never to go on such journey again and decided to look inwards, use what I had to survive and create my own network. That’s when I started my manicure and pedicure phase. Till date, I meet people everyday and their referrals have helped sustain my business.
Q. What’s Ewar’s annual profit yearly, do you mind stating?
A. Hmmm (thinks)…..not at all. We not doing badly at all. We get fully booked most months. Lets start with a month. In makeovers, beauty products, trainings and consulting, worst-case scenario on a poorly patronised month, we make at least close to half a million naira. After salaries and various miscellaneous costs are dealt with, we still have half a million naira declared as profit monthly.
Q. Wow…. that’s profiting. Do you have your own product line?
A. No I don’t. And to be honest, I don’t want to. I have always told people I would rather want to be able to sell every product. Let others do their products, bring them to me and allow me certify them. I would rather like to be able to certify good brands in the make-up industry than have a product line.
Q. What are Ewar’s socio-economic hindrances and challenges as regards the business in context to Nigeria?
A. Honestly, my business isn’t directly intimidated by Nigeria’s socio-economic conditions. We would always have people, especially brides to do makeovers for and tailor beauty needs to no matter the situation of the country. My business is not reliant on NEPA at all, and I really am glad about that. Yes I have to power my generator on several times in the studio and I know how much goes into that but am not solely reliant on power for my services. We probably could get more affordable clients if there was proper equity in our economy but right now we doing not so bad. However, Ewar’s major challenge is rather more internal than external. It has to do with clients always insisting on having only Adenike Ogungbe do their makeover whenever they seek Ewar’s service. They refuse to identify or relate to the fact that Ewar is actually a brand and not just one person. Ewar is a group of make-up artists even though am the Creative Director. Its tough for me going to every job Ewar is booked for. I wish for people to trust my assistants to do their makeovers, as they would trust me because I know, I truly have capable hands. And in order to emphasize this more, I encourage clients who seek our services to come have test runs at our studio, handled by my assistants, prior to the job proper. This helps erase doubts when they see the jobs my assistants do for them. If its just me, I don’t get to do more than one job every weekend and this hurts when I know I have credible capacity to do four jobs a weekend.
Q. What are your dreams and visions for Ewar?
A. Ewar has been a force to reckon with in the Nigerian Make-Up industry but I wish to take it to other countries as well. I want to take it international to countries like South Africa, Ghana et al. I want to go pass Nigeria, more of Africa and then go global as a brand, not only Adenike Ogungbe.
In my view, the Makeover industry in Nigeria is one surviving and hugely thriving irrespective of Nigeria’s second most prevalent cancer- poor power supply. It’s an industry filled with financial opportunities. It’s an industry that also admits and empowers people without conditional qualifications or considerations; except through imaginative ability, self-principles and mottos. It gives us unbiased opportunities to put genuine and lasting smiles on the faces of average Nigerians; especially, the most treasured facilitators of Nigeria’s greatest but un-indentified strength- our mothers and our population. Every woman loves the elegance and poise a makeover brings as much as Nigeria’s first most prevalent cancer- the People’s Democratic Party idolizes corruption and porous governments. Therefore, our Makeover industry would always be reckoned with as an enabler of people’s happiness. Quite similar to what the comedian community have done for themselves. I foresee the makeover industry also burgeoning into this state. Adenike Ogungbe is part of this enabling environment that clearly drives survival in the Nigerian Economy. I had a wonderful time talking to her that I immediately foolishly went tweeting while driving after our chat. I discovered she indeed was another enabler for contextual survival in Nigeria. I hereby induct her as a citizen of DraggNation. Congrats Madame Ewar. You can contact Ewar Makeovers via the details below. They indeed do a remarkable job.
Contact Name: Mrs Adenike Ogungbe
Contact Correspondence: email@example.com
25b, Sunmola Street, Mende, Maryland Lagos.
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